Prepare for a nasty dose of files
Now the January hangover is out of the way it's time to catch up on the things that may have passed under your radar in the past month.
Schools have duties under the Freedom of Information Act, which came into force on January 1. The Act isn't about everyday enquiries from parents but information that should be freely available, but isn't.
This could be because of lack of time or resources, or because the information is complex, or because no one has asked for it before. Or, and here's the rub, it could be information that someone would rather not see the light of day. How many bullying incidents did the school deal with last year? What did the proceeds of the sponsored walk get spent on? How much did the refurbishment of the head's office actually cost?
FOI requests may result in costs and schools can charge for the time it takes to collect the information, but there's a limit, which has been set at Pounds 450.
The Government has guidance to help heads and governing bodies understand FOI, and handle requests for information under the Act, which is fully retrospective. This is on the web at: www.teachernet.gov.uk
Have your say
The Children Act became law before Christmas and the Government is now consulting on how to implement it. Schools are expected to play a key role in this drive to protect children better, but there is nothing in law that requires them to do so.
The first consultation is about the new roles of children's services director and lead member that local authorities have been required to appoint. That closes on February 18. The second consultation looks at interagency co-operation, and closes on March 16.
While we are scanning DfES consultations heads and governors might look at the proposals to deal with false allegations against teachers. This closes on February 10. See the consultation documents at: www.dfes.gov.ukconsultations
Give teachers free time
September sees the third phase of workforce remodelling and the start of time for planning, preparation and assessment. This will be a major issue, especially in primary schools, where free time in the school day has until now been a pipe dream for most teachers. An advice pack on how to free up PPA time for teachers can be downloaded from the website www.remodelling.org
Tackle the exam blues
How's your exams officer? Showing any signs of the spring and summer madness yet? Has he or she started lining up the staffroom chairs in rows, or distributing lined paper at morning briefing?
Help could be at hand in the form of a guide from the National Assessment Agency. The NAA reckons that the success of the exams cycle depends on the exams officer's skills. Their guide includes case studies and tips, though it doesn't seem to cover the case of the blackbird in the exam hall, which disrupted an A-level I once invigilated. See the guide at: www.naa.org.ukmodernisationofficersgpgindex.aspx
Democracy in action
There's to be a General Election on May 5, if we believe the BBC's Andrew Marr, and schools will do what they always do - and organise mock elections. In my experience the kids ignore the issues and it becomes Big Brother lite, a personality contest. But that could be an old cynic talking.
If you find the allure impossible to resist the Hansard Society have produced a Mock Elections 2005 website called "Y Vote" backed by the DfES and the electoral commission.
Schools that sign up receive a mock election wall chart and can download a pack with lesson ideas, fact sheets, and election material such as ballot papers and voter registration forms. See www.mockelections.co.uk